Hell exists and that there are fallen angels condemned to hell, this is a dogma of the Catholic faith. The devil is a personal, living being, not a figment of the imagination. True, his activity in the world remains for the most part, hidden; none the less, by divine permission, at times the evil one comes out into the open.
For the space of 35 years – from 1824 to 1858 – the Cure d’Ars was subjected, even outwardly to the molestations of the evil one. What if, by preventing him from taking both food and sleep, Satan had succeeded in inspiring him with a distaste for prayer, penance and the exertions of the apostolic life, and in obliging him to give up the cure of souls!
But the enemy of our salvation was disappointed and defeated.
The Saint Attacked By The Powers Of Darkness
It was to be expected that so signal a triumph of religion, as well as the personal holiness of him who was instrumental in bringing it about, would rouse the fury of hell. The Scriptures tell us that Satan at times disguises himself as an angel of light. In our days he is even more cunning: he persuades people, all too successfully, that he does not exist at all. One of the most amazing features of the life of the Cure of Ars is that during a period of about thirty-five years he was frequently molested, in a physical and tangible way, by the evil one.
It should be borne in mind that all men are subject to temptation—for to tempt to sin is the devil’s occupation, so to speak—and temptation is permitted by God for our good. is an of the devil, when he seeks to terrify by horrible apparitions or noises. goes further: it is either , when the devil acts on the external senses of the body; or , when he influences the imagination or the memory. occurs when the devil seizes on and uses the whole organism. But even then mind and will remain out of his reach. Most of the Cure of Ars’ experiences belong to the first category, viz., .
The powers of darkness opened the attack in the winter of 1824. In the stillness of a frosty night terrific blows were struck against the presbytery door and wild shouting could be heard coming, so it seemed, from the little yard in front of the house. For a moment the Cure suspected the presence of burglars so that he asked the village wheelwright, one Andre Verchere, to spend the following night at the presbytery. It proved an exciting night for that worthy. Shortly after midnight there suddenly came a fearful rattling and battering of the front door whilst within the house a noise was heard as if several heavy carts were being driven through the rooms. Andre seized his gun, looked out of the window but saw nothing except the pale light of the moon: “For a whole quarter of an hour the house shook—and so did my legs,” the would-be defender subsequently confessed. The following evening he received another invitation to spend the night at the presbytery but Andre had had enough.
These and similar disturbances were of almost nightly occurrence. They happened even when the Saint was away from home—in the early years when he was still able to lend a hand to his clerical neighbours. Thus on a certain night during a mission at St Trivier, the presbytery shook and a dreadful noise seemed to proceed from M. Vianney’s bedroom. Everybody was alarmed, and rushing to the Saint’s room the priests found him in his bed which invisible hands had dragged into the middle of the room. M. Vianney soon perceived that these displays of satanic humour were fiercest when some great conversion was about to take place, or, as he playfully put it, when he was about to “land a big fish.” One morning the devil set fire to his bed. The Saint had just left his Confessional to vest for Mass when the cry, “Fire! fire!” was raised. He merely handed the key of his room to those who were to put out the flames: “The villainous !” (it was his nickname for the devil) “unable to catch the bird, he sets fire to the cage!” was the only comment he made. To this day the pilgrim may see, hard by the head of the bed, a picture with its glass splintered by the heat of the flames. It must be remembered that at no time was a fire lit in the hearth and there were no matches in the presbytery.
These molestations were both terrifying and ludicrous. The holy man ended by getting inured to them, so much so that he often poked fun at their author who showed himself in a very poor light indeed. With a smile the Saint once remarked: “Oh! the and myself—we are almost chums.” As a sample of Satan’s sense of humour the following is characteristic of one whom somebody called “God’s ape.” The devil would go on for hours producing a noise similar to that made by striking a glass tumbler with the blade of a steel knife; or he would sing, “with a very cracked voice,” the Saint said, or whistle for hours on end; or he would produce a noise as of a horse champing and prancing in the room, so that the wonder was that the worm-eaten floor did not give way; or he would bleat like a sheep, or miaow like a cat, or shout under the Cure’s window: “Vianney! Vianney! potato-eater.” The purpose of these horrible or grotesque performances was to prevent the servant of God from getting that minimum of rest which his poor body required and thus to render him physically unfit to go on with his astonishing work in the confessional by which he snatched so many souls from the clutches of the fiend. But from 1845 these external attacks ceased almost entirely.
The Saint’s constancy amid such trials was rewarded by the extraordinary power God gave him to cast out devils from the possessed. Nevertheless, horrible as may be the condition of one whose body is possessed by the devil, it is as nothing by comparison with the wretched plight of a soul which, by mortal sin, sells itself, as it were, to Satan. The holy priest may be said to have spent the best part of his priestly career in a direct contest with sin through his unparalleled work in the confessional. The Cure’s confessional was the real miracle of Ars, one that was not merely a passing wonder, or the sensation of a few weeks. Great as were his penances, assuredly the greatest of them all was the endless hours spent by him within the narrow confinement of a rugged, comfort-less, unventilated confessional. This miracle went on for forty years. The astonishing thing about M. Vianney is that he himself personally became the object of a pilgrimage, people flocking to Ars in hundreds of thousands just to get a glimpse of him, to hear him, to exchange but a few words with him, above all, to go to confession to him.
It is said that the Devil told St. John Vianney, “If there were three such priests as you, my kingdom would be ruined.” The Saint, for his part, developed a remarkable sense of humour about the supernatural assaults, saying, “Oh! the grappin” – his nickname for the Devil – “and myself? We are almost chums.”
(Original source unknown – taken from Divine Mercy Facebook page)